- BEAUTIFUL HANDMADE KITCHENS -
With the launch of many exciting projects and wonderful new imagery including Tori Murphy textiles, Louisa Blackmore Creative Director at Humphrey Munson kindly answered our questions, delving into her background, the company itself and the bright future of Humphrey Munson.
Tell us a little bit about the history of Humphrey Munson?
The roots of H|M really began in 1995 when Peter Humphrey, the Design Director and Founder, formally started the business. I love the story of how Humphrey Munson came about – Peter left school at 15 with no qualifications and became an apprentice upholsterer. Eventually he realised he loved the frame-making side of upholstery so much that he went to work as an apprentice cabinetmaker. Over the intervening years he really honed his craft and by the time 1995 came around, his love of classic English design paired with simple contemporary lines, was fully established. Since ’95, Humphrey Munson has grown organically all the while maintaining the heritage of traditional joinery techniques.
What is your background & how did you arrive at Humphrey Munson?
I originally trained as a solicitor and worked in the City, I loved studying law but I found the day to day work really unfulfilling. So in 2010 I re-trained as a furniture restorer, which looking back seems completely mad but it was something I was really interested in and so I set up a business selling antiques and homewares. The success of that business - West Egg - was largely due to the popularity of the blog and the use of social media platforms which really helped propel its growth in quite a short space of time. By 2014 as well as running my company I was consulting for other businesses who wanted help with marketing, social media and branding, and that’s how I came across Humphrey Munson. I saw some pictures in a magazine feature and I was blown away by the aesthetic and quality of the kitchen cabinetry. I kept the magazine with the intention of getting in touch with them to write about the company on the blog but I ended up daydreaming about working with them instead. I guess at that time I was looking for a much bigger challenge so when I met Peter Humphrey and he offered me a position at H|M it was something I just couldn't refuse. Initially I concentrated on developing the marketing strategy, but I was promoted to Creative Director after a little over a year so my role now has grown to encompass all aspects of the brand.
We’d love to know how you go about designing and creating these kitchens…
As the Design Director, Peter leads a team of young designers who all joined us with a background in design but zero kitchen design experience. So they are all trained in-house by Peter and learn to design his way. Obviously I’m totally biased but I do think the way he designs spaces is utter genius – each of our projects embraces our core design values of symmetry, simplicity and proportion but there’s something else there because when I walk into the newly finished kitchens it’s not just the look but it’s the feel too. There’s a calmness and a really quiet, understated order to the kitchens which is really welcoming and makes you feel instantly at home.
Describe a typical day working as the Creative Director at H|M
It's a total cliché but there’s no such thing as a typical day. My job is to align the strategic and creative direction of the business so I cover everything related to the H|M brand.
I also work closely with our appliance partners and we work collaboratively with other companies that share our values. I write the H|M blog and our monthly Notebook to our mailing list which is always a highlight at the end of the month. And I work with clients during the initial stages of the design process and then after the project is completed I do a home visit to see clients and go over their appliances etc.
A few days a week I work at our Felsted office which is where our workshop is – it’s so beautiful there and I love driving through the gates in the morning especially when it’s all frosty in the winter. We always describe the workshop as the beating heart of the business and it really really is. I’m so proud to work with such a talented group of cabinetmakers who have such tremendous skill and work with such dedication and passion. When I’m in Felsted I tend to be in and out of meetings but we love to cook in our showrooms so once a week I’ll plan with Georgie, our showroom assistant, to try out a recipe for the blog which we can then cook, photograph and share with everyone.
I spend quite a lot of time out of the office either at shoots photographing recently finished projects, or in London for meetings, or at project sites. As long as I have my laptop and wifi I can work pretty much anywhere.
You collaborate with other brands including John Julian and Perrin & Rowe amongst others, what is the common thread between them?
I think the common thread with all the companies we work with – whether that’s as a collaboration, an appliance partner or a supplier, is that we work with companies who are authentic. They are who they say they are, and they do what they say they will.
But particularly with companies that we collaborate creatively with, there are shared values embracing the simplicity of design and excellent craftsmanship. We are known for the quality of our cabinetry – we use only the best materials and we don’t cut corners so we work with companies that do the same. So for example, we love working with John Julian because they have a pared back design aesthetic and the quality of their ceramics is absolutely incredible. They make everything by hand like we do and in the UK.
Why is it important for you to manufacture in the UK?
As I said earlier, our workshop in Felsted, Essex is really the beating heart of the business. Peter’s background in cabinetmaking is the basis for how the workshop is organised and run but it’s the people in there who make it. Our cabinetmakers set the benchmark for the rest of us – their skill and dedication to their craft is what makes H|M what it is and we wouldn’t have that if we didn’t manufacture in the UK.
It feels like it's an exciting time for HM, what are the ambitions ahead?
It is an exciting time but personally it’s felt like that since the day I joined. Everyday feels like day one – and I mean that in the sense that there is always so much ahead. We are working on so many projects in addition to the kitchens: we’re just about to formally launch our stone flooring business the H|M Stone Library, we’ve been designing our own lighting range, we’ve designed some really lovely counter stools and dining chairs to go with our freestanding dining tables, there’s soaps and candles to come. So there’s a lot of side projects going on, but the main ambition is to continue with our first love – kitchens that celebrate classic English design paired with contemporary lines. We’ve got some amazing projects coming up in 2017 and we can’t wait to share them with everyone. I know I’m lucky - I love what I do and I’m so proud to be part of team H|M.